Thoughts on the PRO12 Expansion to South Africa

“The board of the Cheetahs has reviewed the team’s future and is extremely positive about the prospect of appearing in alternative international competitions.” 

That was the statement from Cheetahs CEO Harold Verster on the news that the Cheetahs and fellow South African side the Southern Kings are no longer part of Super Rugby.

The Pro12 seem determined to grow, with the addition of teams from America, Georgia and other European countries all having been mooted in the past, but will it be anything other than a total disaster to include underperforming sides from far away?

We asked some of our writers and friends from around the blogosphere for their thoughts on the state of the PRO12 and the plans for expansion.

The view from Ireland:

At the end of May, just before the Irish Under 20s squad set off for Georgia to take part in the World Championship, hooker Tadhg McElroy was told he had been dropped, as the IRFU had learned he was on the verge of a move to European champions Saracens.

Keeping its principal stars on Irish soil has been the foundation on which the IRFU has built much of its success at both test and provincial levels during the professional era… now the amount of TV money available to Premiership and Top14 clubs means that they are even having trouble holding on to their best academy prospects never mind full internationals.

If the Celtic nations are to compete, they will have to find new revenue streams, so from that point of view, inviting teams from South Africa and the US to the competition makes sense.

My main concern is that by rushing the Cheetahs and the Kings into the competition so soon, there may not be time to get over the obvious logistical problems. I also hope they don’t increase the number of matches from the current 22 – the calendar is full enough as it is, though an extra two playoff slots would be ok.

Jeff Pagano is the editor of harpinonrugby.net. Follow him on twitter @HarpinOnRugby.

The view from Wales:

Sadly, it now seems inevitable that the competition that can barely sustain rugby in South Wales (my home, God’s country and a rugby heartland) will be expanding into South Africa.

Just take a look at the state of some of the current Pro12 sides. Dragons Rugby (the artists formerly known as the Newport Gwent Dragons) have had to be bought up by the WRU to stop them folding while Edinburgh, despite being a side peppered with Scottish internationals, are woefully inconsistent and have moved from Murrayfield to Myreside to try and increase interest and stem dwindling attendances.

How did the last expansion attempt go? Benetton Treviso have barely developed since joining the Pro12 in 2010 and have one of the lowest attendances in the league, averaging just 2,460, while fellow Italian outfit Aironi only lasted two seasons (finishing bottom on both occasions) before the Italian Rugby Federation stripped them of regional status and their license for financial reasons. They were replaced by Zebre, who despite having a pretty cool badge, are equally disappointing.

You could argue that bringing in two Southern Hemisphere sides will shake things up a bit and improve the quality of rugby, but what, realistically, do they offer the league?

Despite being two of the poorer sides in the Super Rugby competition, you can’t help but feel they will come in and give the likes of Zebre and Treviso a good humping, (I would include Edinburgh and the Dragons to that list but they are somewhat of an unknown quantity going into next season with new management and ownership respectively) which does little to aid their development.

Also, when you consider that both outfits have struggled to maintain support within their own country, they are hardly going to bring a huge wave of new viewers or support with them. Are they adding anything other than a new financial and logistical burden on the current Pro12 sides who are hardly the most financially secure at the best of times.

You only have to look at the RFL’s repeated attempts at expansion outside of the traditional rugby league corridor (London Broncos/Harlequins RL/Crusaders) to see how well expansion for expansion’s sake goes.

I may be being overly negative, but as a life long Aston Villa fan, it comes with the territory. I can’t help but feel everyone’s time and money would be far better spent trying to sort out the state of the current sides before trying to take the Pro12 global.

I miss the Magners League…

A Welshman living in Scotland, James Rhys Baylis is our London Scottish correspondent. Follow him on twitter @JamesRhys90.

The view from Italy:

Describing the actual situation of Italian Rugby at pro club level by using the word “uncertainty” is not far from reality but, at the same time, a massive understatement.

The truth is it is almost impossible to decipher what future holds for Italian Rugby at this level.

“On 1st July we should have become members of the PRO12 board but so far […] we have not received any information in that regard,” said Alfredo Gavazzi, FIR president and the man in charge of Italian Rugby as a whole, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “If we will not be part of the PRO12 in the future, we might have to think about a new format for the Eccellenza (Italian domestic semi-pro competition).”

This uncertainty is affecting the players too who are forced to once again look abroad for employment.

“As soon as I knew that ‘Zebre Rugby ssd arl’ (the full legal name of Zebre) would not take part to the next PRO12 season, I asked my agent to see if he could help me find a club abroad. This happened on 14th June. A day later I received an offer from RC Toulon and, needless to say, I accepted it straight away.”

Italian full back Edoardo Padovani summed perfectly up in that interview with “Il Grillotalpa” the actual situation of one of the two Italian franchises which will play in the Guinness PRO12 – or whatever the format will be.  Zebre will actually still be part of that league, but will now be entirely owned by the FIR. They are still waiting on the announcement of a head coach.

Considering – as Quintin Geldenhuys, then Zebre’s captain, told me last year – Zebre faced a 14-hour trip to get from Parma to Limerick (one-way), without external financial help, I do not dare to think how long it will take them to travel to Bloemfontein or Port Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, Benetton Treviso, still as they were at the beginning of the Italian adventure in the PRO12, are ready to tackle next season. In the future, they might well be the only club waving the flag of Italian rugby in an expanded PRO12.

“We are not against the expansion of the PRO12, but I think we should discuss it.” According to Il Mattino di Padova, Gavazzi will meet Anayi – PRO12 CEO – on Tuesday in Rome to discuss, very likely, the expansion of the competition. The only problem is, with the (poor) results collected in the past seasons, Italy does not seem to be in the best condition to negotiate the best possible deal.

Matteo Mangiarotti is an Italian journalist. You can follow him on twitter at @soloteo1980 and via his website: albaovale.wordpress.com.
The view from South Africa:

The news that two of South Africa’s rugby teams will be joining the northern hemisphere’s Pro12 is just the beginning of the exodus that will one day see all of the country’s franchise play in an expanded pan-European tournament, writes Kaylan Geekie.

The Southern Kings and Cheetahs will be joining the Pro12 next season after being cut from the convoluted 18-team Super Rugby competition.

Super Rugby has not been the same since the expansion from 12 teams, first to 14, 15, then 18 sides. What was once the world’s premier rugby tournament, it has, in the past ten years, become weakened by one-sided matches, dwindling television audiences and crowds.

This has led to a general state of apathy, to the detriment and integrity of the game. Add to this, the exodus of South African professional rugby players, chasing the euro and pound as well as international honours with other countries, it makes sense that one day, all of the Republic’s franchises will be based in Europe.

In what guise, nobody knows, but with the chance to increase revenues, keep the Springboks strong by retaining players and stopping the drain, SA Rugby can only be thinking about this move – and they are. Travelling, time zones and jet lag has always been to the South African’s disadvantage; this move will be beneficial to player welfare, the Boks and the bottom line.

Who knows, this might be the start of the way forward to a global league – something that should have happened a decade ago. The Cheetahs and Kings’ transition will be watched carefully and if it is a success, it is only a matter of time before South Africa pulls out of Sanzaar – it is the way of the future.

Kaylan Geekie is the match-day Content Producer, Editor and Writer for SuperXV.com. You can follow him on twitter @KaylanGeekie.

The view from Scotland:

Well, what do we think?

I think Super Rugby, in the conference format it has just now, is a dog’s dinner and this is reflected in the falling attendances for a tournament with no clear identity. In an ideal world, I suppose, each country would be able to sustain a professional league of its own as England and France do, and the gallivanting off around Europe would be left for the European competition. It sounds a bit parochial but all the travel should be a novelty, not the norm for what is supposed to be your “bread and butter” rugby.

In an ideal world, I suppose, each country playing top flight rugby would be able to sustain a professional league of its own as England and France do, and the gallivanting off around Europe would be left for the European competition. It sounds a bit parochial but all the travel should be a novelty, not the norm for what is supposed to be your “bread and butter” rugby.

I am sure we’d all love to go back to the 60s-70s and have the traditional clubs feeding straight into the national teams but there is now a massive leap in resource and level to international rugby and since professionalism, the game at all levels in Scotland has struggled to step up to fill the gap the next level down.

We now live in a globalised, commercial world and our own player base in Scotland is too small to sustain the quality required for keeping (/making) the national team a success across 8-10 teams. This is the issue and it is the same in Wales where the regions are struggling for an identity, a sense of place. In Ireland they are almost victims of their own success with strong regional identities now established but with success comes player poaching. For them, it’s perhaps more about money.

So we end up clubbing together to make sure the teams we do have can play at the required level.

That’s not to say that in a few years when the TransAtlantic Pro16 has crashed and burned, we couldn’t see Scottish clubs with resource and ambition stepping in to fill a gap. After all, Treviso are actually a club-based side in the PRO12. Or there may be scope to expand the number of Scottish regional teams back up if the game grows as we hope it will.

The Celtic League at least had some sort of unifying theme, spread amongst the 3 main Celtic nations. Could we bring back the Borders, invite RC Vannes and the Cornish Pirates? The Isle of Man is currently without a representative rugby side although there are six clubs on the island. An Isle of Man Jaguares anyone?

It’s a nice idea but won’t bring in the big bucks. And South Africa does.

Regardless of the future, there is massive uncertainty over the present of the Pro12 even as it looks like the South African expansion will go ahead sooner rather than later – there are rumours of an announcement by the 18th. It might improve the quality, it should improve the financial situation if the reports of big TV money are true, and it will definitely be a novelty; will it improve the league as a whole?

For now, we will have to wait and see.

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51 comments on “Thoughts on the PRO12 Expansion to South Africa

  1. Merlot on

    The biggest problem is the fixture list. If they don’t split the Pro12 into conferences, then it’s another 4 fixtures in an already congested calendar. We could get rid of the play-offs but that’s only 2 weeks and they bring in the TV money, which is the whole point.
    Go down the conference route to reduce fixtures has it’s own issues. Playing your own conference teams twice and the others only once does indeed reduce the fixture list from the current 22 to just 19 matches. However that automatically reduces the derby games, assuming they’ll split the conferences by nation (that is one Scottish, one Italian, one SA and two each from Ireland and Wales in each conference). The derby games are also big money spinners so that defeats the object too!
    The only way round this is to go down the conference route but keep the derbies. However the Welsh and Irish have more clubs so more derbies! That just means those nations with only two sides, those sides have to play each other three times in a season, rather than two.
    Play everyone in your conference home and away (6 x 2 games).
    Play everyone in the other conference once (7 x 1 games).
    Irish/Welsh play those of your country in the other conference an extra time (2 x 1 game).
    Scottish/Italian/SA play those of your country in the other conference twice moe (1 x 2 games).
    21 games each.
    This means the 1872 cup would be on aggregate score, but best of three!

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  2. Nicholas on

    I wish we never let the Italian clubs join as it’s been a real burden. I know Edinburgh and other non Italian Pro12 clubs have had but simply expanding into new countries with limited resources will only escalate the financial deficit.

    For the good of British and Irish rugby a home nations league in which everyone plays each other once would be my shout. Financially problematic as I’m sure the Premiership would make all sorts of demands, but it would really help inspire the Scottish public to support our two sides.

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    • FF on

      Yes, that would be great but zero chance the English clubs would accept it. We’re the ones with the problem and they have very little incentive or inclination to lend a helping hand – as they’ve amply demonstrated many times in the past.

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  3. Not rocket science on

    Surely this misses the bottom line. The Pro-12 needs money. England & France have that from larger audiences or wealthy owners or both. Any expansion should target the USD (tapping into Irish and Scottish roots) and/or Georgia where there’s a swell in popularity and a wealthy backer.

    How does taking two of the worst and presumably least marketable South African teams help? It’s a last resort for those teams and it sounds from Rudy Van Rooyen on the BBC that the Kings players think this will make them instantly wealthier. It probably won’t (unless they use it as a route to England & France), it probably won’t make the league better either, and it probably doesn’t make the Pro-12 a more attractive prospect for expansion elsewhere let alone existing audiences and backers.

    Hopefully that’s an ill-informed impression and those making the deal have done their diligence – the standard of play is right for the league, the logistics work, the teams are sustainable, being a bit different will provide an all round popularity boost and it’s part of a wider plan for a larger, well-branded and attractive league.

    Yeah maybe…

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    • FF on

      Expansion to SA will instantly benefit the existing teams to the tune of an extra £11m in TV rights apparently. SA is a proven rugby market with a huge population. Our current sponsors guinness have large commercial interests in Africa. By contrast USA has never had a successful professional rugby interest, every adventure has failed miserably. It is a notoriously hard market to crack. Georgia has a small and poor population. In terms of expansion for financial return SA is as close to a sure thing as possible. Whether or not the format will survive commercial realities is another matter – it is a bit of a dogs dinner. But there simply aren’t better alternatives on the table.

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      • Not rocket science on

        Fair enough, if that’s right or how it plays out, I hope so. Out of interest where does the GBP11m / club (presumably per year) figure come from? That would be about doubling the existing money right? Is that from SA audience or have anything to do with domestic rights renewal in 2018? While not doubting the US is a tough market to crack and has plenty of domestic sports. It is still a vast population, more than 115,000 registered players and close to 3,000 clubs. It has the best procedures for investment etc., the right cities, e.g. Boston, and would raise the profile of the league to the worldwide stage. Pretty sure Guinness has interests there too! There is no doubt all the leagues are looking to North America, but had hoped Pro 12 were at front of the queue, due to those Celtic roots and things like the existing deal on USA Rugby’s Rugby Channel. You have to hope the SA move is consistent with that path and isn’t a move in a different direction. Georgia are an altogether different proposition: closer, smaller (a little bit bigger than Wales), but with rugby being the 2nd/1st sport and a benevolent Ivanishvili are not to be sneered if they could be introduced seamlessly. Helpfully, you have to think the Pro-12 doesn’t quite have the same quality concerns as Super Rugby and even Premiership etc, if a few teams are brought in that allow Edinburgh and the Dragons chalk up a few more victories that’s not a bad thing. Will new entrants of whatever continent have access to the Champions Cup?

      • FF on

        £11m for the whole league, not per club. Although tbh that figure was from memory and I’m not sure how legit – a BBC report from Tom English said the 12 existing clubs would get an additional £500-£800k but various figures have been floating around. The bottom line is this is on the cards because the SA franchises are bringing money in – unlike the Italian expansion. Also, the suggestion is that an American franchise based in Washington DC is likely to join the following season, so SA/USA expansion is not mutually exclusive.

        Whilst Martin Anayi has been openly flirting with American franchises for over a year, I’ve never seen a suggestion that expansion would go towards Georgia – this seems to be something mooted by rugby fans rather than the pro12 money men.

      • Not rocket science on

        Ah OK then, the figure is tiny, save they are paying transitional costs. Has to be about another audience in the bag come renewal time. Glad it is not exclusive. I’d read about Houston, New York-Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto. Washington / Sheehy sounds plausible. Will look forward to the Guinness Atlantic Rugby Championship’, featuring [16] teams from Canada(1), Ireland(4), Italy(2), Scotland(2), South Africa(2), USA(1) and Wales(4). I’ve never Anyai talk about Georgia; pretty sure he has dissed the wealthy benefactor model, but given how pragmatic they’re being. Pretty bold and exciting times really. Maybe Glasgow can hold onto Russell yet…

      • FF on

        I think that is unfair, it is increasing the tv pot by 50-100%. If it was £11m per club that would be more than the French and English deals put together!!!

      • Not rocket science on

        Fair point, 11m per club would be ridiculous. But, with Top 14 Rugby on about gbp80m p.a. and Premiership on about gbp40m p.a. (about the same as Formula 1), an extra gbp11m isn’t fixing the deficit (and that’s ignoring the ECC), albeit a step in right direction & wider audience come TV renewal & sponsorship time. The U.S. and Canada, looks to be the only way to catch up: TV rights and sponsorship to the Guinness [World / Atlantic] Rugby Championship.

        This is the first time I’ve really looked at any of this, but given the Scottish share is limited by only having 2 professional clubs (apparently for Sky 20% from Celtic Rugby, as opposed to the 40% each for Ireland and Wales; significantly worse for terrestrial as Wales takes the bulk). Surely if there is going to be a big expansion to the U.S. & Canada next year, as well as SA this year, and a significant increase in the pot, Scotland needs a bigger stake or we’ll always be falling further behind the Irish and Welsh, despite the odd generational blip. So, time for the SRU to put their hand in the air for a third professional club if all this expansion is serious…

        I see no issue with conference formats if done well. Works well in every US sport. Works in the Champions Cup, World Cup etc.

      • FF on

        Interestingly other chat is that there were 1 or 2 other super rugby teams from SA (Sharks named in rumours) who were interested in voluntarily leaving Super rugby for pro rugby. Kings and Cheetahs seen to be a bit of an experiment and if all SA franchises left And Sanzar collapsed a much bigger tv stake would come pro-whatever’s way. Currently that money keeps super rugby afloat so t is probably considerable. Personally i think there is a huge risk that pro rugby in NH just grows through cannibalising itself and we only end up with England and France as viable pro-leagues and the international game in tatters. But what can we do except try to keep up until then. Hopefully half a dozen English clubs will go bankrupt and we can reset…

  4. Neil on

    just purely from a fans point of view this is brilliant, adding 2 fast paced teams to the league and getting to travel down to south africa is going to be sweet to see a new culture/enviroment

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    • Bulldog on

      For once and only this once , I agree with you.Not sure what they will make of a mucky Rodney Parade and our season is their summer season so will be a huge contrast.

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  5. Neil on

    i can see the kings/ cheetas improving alot from this also , financially from a players perspective they are going to be more likely to earn the big bucks in the pro12 i think, and it gives them a better opportunity to showcase their talent for the English and french leagues. it also should put south africa teams in the unique place of having teams that will compete against pretty much all the top tier countries if this leads to ECC qualifying also.

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  6. Campbell on

    The pro12 is a great competition as it is. They’re chasing foreign markets but they’re not getting the most out of the ones they’ve got already. We’re doing nearly enough to sell the game up here. I’m a recent rugby convert, who came alive when Glasgow won the competition in 2015 and before that I was a football fan. I’m still a fitba fan but these days I’m more interested in my rugby. There’s huge potential in the Scottish fitba fan demographic that rugby is already tapping into but doing it slowly. Glasgow fans would know better than I but I suspect there’s already a healthy percentage of football fans going to their games. There was game against Munster where their fans were scandalised at the booing of Connor Murray as he lay injured – wonder if they also sang dig a hole?

    Scottish rugby has two weapons to entice the football fan over. For one it has players like Finn Russel who can do things with a Rugby ball more aesthetically pleasing than anyone in Scottish football can do with a football. Scotland and Glasgow are so pleasing on the eye right now. It’s funny how we play a brutal game beautifully and the beautiful game brutally. Even I as an Edinburgh fan have Cornell du Preez to supply a bit of elan. You don’t need to understand the laws to appreciate the way we play the game. It’s taken me a couple of years to get to grips with the laws of the game. There’s no drastic change of plan required just keep producing skilful, exciting players; the brilliant, running rugby that I’ve come to associate with Scotland and market it.

    Two, there’s the competition. For football fans like myself, who haven’t invested their hearts in one of the old firm our chance for real glory is negligible. Scottish football as a competition is appalling, it has been for decades and fans are scunnered with it. As I said I woke up to rugby when Glasgow won the pro12 and found out Scottish rugby is actually trying to achieve. I’ve invested my heart in soul into Edinburgh knowing that they are working on challenging for trophies. The multinational nature of the tournament gives you a secondary bite at glory. I’m Edinburgh first but other Scottish team second and I feel a healthy amount of pride and enjoyment watching Glasgow win.

    Looking forward to seeing the South African sides play but I hope they stick with the same format – round robin and playoffs for the championship. There was nothing wrong with the competition as it was. The Italians need to work on coaching better players but in the meantime having a couple of whipping boys is not a bad thing. Scottish rugby just needs to keep doing what it’s doing and market it. To truly maximise its potential it’ll need more teams, especially in Dundee and Aberdeen where there’s already a natural rivalry. Until then keep producing the watchable rugby and market the game until there’s a demand from these cities to have their own professional side.

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  7. pragmatic optomist on

    For all it’s weaknesses, we need to make a restructured Pro XX work.
    The alternative is to admit defeat to French and English leagues with bigger subscriber audiences, bigger TV contracts alligned to that, and owners who seem more willing to ‘splash the cash’.
    It would be an unequal financial battle for our top clubs if we don’t try something different. The status quo is just not good enough.
    I’d be interested to know the thinking of the unions, clubs and Pro 12 on this subject.
    But as always, they seem to keep their views to themselves and punters like ourselves are always kept in the dark as to what is really going on.
    They seem to believe we should accept whatever they decide we should have, without demur or discussion. Unlikely.
    What happened to different options and dialogue?

    The question should be ‘how do we make the Pro xx a product which is:-
    a) an attractive proposition to TV
    b) commercially lucrative (sponsorship)
    c) the fans will support in bigger numbers
    d) which works well operationally.

    The answer has to be in expansion and inclusion of other countries and teams, without making the operation too cumbersome to work effectively.
    If we could somehow make a success of it, we could make the English and French leagues look like parochial country cousins.
    It needs an open international league/s, with more teams and countries involved.
    A champions league of rugby. Why not?
    Does anyone know when there will be any kind of announcement on the subject?

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  8. Andyc on

    I actually think this will work well. The fixtures could be a bit of a headache but I think the bonus of SA TV and interest should help offset the cost. I am aware of the distance issue but it’s a huge positive that there is no time difference as such. Also they are two reasonably attractive teams to watch and I believe it will make the league more competitive in my opinion

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  9. Crazyjoe on

    I think this is hilarious. Super rugby expands to new countries and additional teams. It’s a huge failure ruining what was the best domestic league in the world. They kick two teams out to try and fix the problem. The Pro 12 then decides to fix their failing multi national competition by adding in new teams from a new country by taking the teams super rugby just booted out.

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  10. pragmatic optomist on

    Which is the best domestic league in the world being ruined by Super rugby?
    Super rugby has never been a domestic league!

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  11. Ade on

    Crazyjoe – can you explain how the Pro12 is failing please? Average attendance figures since the Italian teams were included in 2011 have increased from 7553 to 8771. This is approximately 15% up? I think most businesses would consider that to be reasonable growth.

    As for revenue – I don’t know the exact numbers, but much was made in the press at the time of how having Guinness as main sponsor was a huge financial boost to the competition. There is also the money coming from Sky for TV rights. So, like the crowds, numbers going in the right direction.

    Unfortunately, the English and French leagues have taken massive leaps forward in terms of revenue I the last few years. This is partly due to the sheer number of top line potential sponsors available, which the Pro12 countries just don’t have. Would you argue that Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy are failing countries just because they don’t have the TV markets that the French and English do?

    That increased revenue has created problems for the Pro12 in European competition. From 2007 to 2012 there were 4 Heineken Cups won by Pro12 teams. Since then none have made the final as it has been dominated by the heavily backed Saracens and Toulon. In order for the Pro12 to be successful on this stage more money is required to attract/retain top players. The board of the Pro12 should be commended for showing the drive to get out and look at new ways to grow their competition. South Africa, with a large, mature rugby-following population could be a great fit, and one which allows the Pro12 to keep growing sustainably.

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  12. Andy on

    Some logistical and fixture challenges for sure but if we look at it financially speaking it makes sense as long as the fixtures are structured in a way that makes both fixtures against the South African teams back to back. I reckon it would cost about £200k for a 14 day tour for a gang of about 40 so the figures of about £800k extra TV revenue immediately suggest that it makes sense. Not sure how the TV money would be apportioned though as surely as the SA teams have far more travelling they would need the most compensation…but even that I would see as only having a possible £100k impact on each of the rest. Still gives £500k of extra revenue which is not to be sniffed at. I’m pretty sure the players would be delighted to get a 2 week trip to SA at the middle of a Scottish winter as well.

    Will they improve the competition though? That’s where the problem lies. I think they will. They are certainly better than the Italian sides and probably on a par at least with Dragons and Edinburgh of last season.

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  13. Wilsy on

    “Super Rugby has not been the same since the expansion from 12 teams, first to 14, 15, then 18 sides. What was once the world’s premier rugby tournament, it has, in the past ten years, become weakened by one-sided matches, dwindling television audiences and crowds.”
    Im worried that we seem to be wandering into the Super Rugby vision of the future which as stated above and in other articles has failed it sounds like they had success and tried to push forward by expanding which has apparently back fired. Its not too hard to see the similarities between them 10 years ago and us now.
    I personally dont like the idea of the 2 conferences idea (seems complicated – imagine trying to explain to a potential new fan how it works) and prefer the round robin play off but can understand how the additional games would cause an issue.

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    • FF on

      Super rugby expanded beyond SANZAR for the same reason we’re in trouble – they needed to find new markets to keep up commercially with the financial muscle of France and England. The reason SA provinces are uncompetitive is because there are 300 odd professional players from SA playing in Europe.

      Will our expansion work? Who knows, but doing nothing will just guarantee we become no-mark feeder clubs for the Aviva and T14.

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  14. Crazyjoe on

    The reason no one gives a monkeys about the P12 is because it’s rubbish competition. Like super rugby it’s a crap competition in part populated by exceptional players and sides but it’s so uncompetitive outside of the top 6-8. You want a successful competition in terms of TV, you need an audience outside of the countries competing like the AVIVA has. The Irish derbies, the explosion of Glasgow. People are interested in them here in England but not when you have probably the worlds biggest rugby club derby in Leinster Munster and they put out second string sides (not due to international windows). Empty stadia, no atmosphere. More teams does not equal better product, more competitiveness and quality rugby does. The P12 is becoming a joke in other countries which just devalues its potential earning power. The top teams are respected but the competition isn’t. If the P12 wants to change or needs to then the powers that be should have the balls to try something which will potentially increase the quality of the competition (I say potentially because nothing’s guaranteed to work) while also peaking positive interest and respect from the TV markets we want to hit I.e. France and England. ThE SA teams are getting press but as a joke move. Why not break the P12 up into 2 conference divisions of 10, include teams from Europe, Timisoara saracens, a German side etc. Gain positivity for having a product which is developing the game and have a more competitive Top 10. Also wouldn’t have to play during international windows or at least six nations. Who wants to watch Glasgow shorn of 13 starters for 6 weeks other than die hard Glasgow fans? If a risk is going to be taken then take a risk on something new rather than repeating super rugbys mistakes.

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    • pragmatic optomist on

      The Pro 12 is “so uncompetitive outside the top 6-8”?
      Are you for real?
      The Aviva being so competitive outside the top 2! Or is it top 1?
      Who’ll win the Aviva this year? Let me see….. how about Saracens?
      At least the “joke league” has had 4 different winners in the last 4 years all playing a fast brand of running rugby.

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      • Crazyjoe on

        You mean how Saracens won this year? Joke of a post. Aviva top 11 this season was far more competitive than P12. Worcester came 11th yet they beat top 6 sides and stayed within much finer margins than the bottom half of the P12. Where are your guaranteed weekly hammering in the AVIVA or T14? Yeah they happen once in a blue moon. What about the P12? Zebre, Trevino, Dragons, unfortunately Edinburgh. Those teams winning and playing well is the blip on the graph, in the other leagues the hammerings are the blip. Hammerings are a weekly occurrence in the P12. No ones interested in watching those. Ir doesn’t change my original point which is that as a product the competition has little interest in its current form and the interest in the proposed new form is more of a morbid curiosity to see how the car crash turns out.

      • TeamCam on

        Blue moons in last year’s AP:

        Saracens 35-3 Worcester Warriors
        Bath 58-5 Newcastle Falcons
        Bristol 10-32 Saints
        Exeter Chiefs 13-34 Saracens
        Wasps 70-22 Bristol
        Bristol 17-41 Exeter Chiefs
        Leicester Tigers 31-14 Bath
        Bristol 0-39 Saracens
        Wasps 47-18 Harlequins
        Bath 30-3 Sale Sharks
        Leicester Tigers 34-13 Worcester Warriors
        Saracens 30-14 Wasps
        Harlequins 36-14 Worcester Warriors
        Wasps 31-6 Newcastle Falcons
        Bristol 13-31 Sale Sharks
        Gloucester 36-18 Wasps
        Leicester Tigers 25-6 Harlequins
        Exeter Chiefs 57-22 Worcester Warriors
        Sale Sharks 3-21 Exeter Chiefs
        Northampton Saints 24-5 Sale Sharks
        Saracens 21-6 Newcastle Falcons
        Exeter Chiefs 31-10 Leicester Tigers

        These were just the hammerings from the first half of the season. That’s a lot of blue moons, in fact about twice a week. Maybe you should just toddle off back to the BBC HYS pages, eh old bean?

        Joke of a post…

    • Merlot on

      I disagree that the Pro12 is “becoming a joke in other countries”. Living in England there is obviously less interest than in the AP, but that doesn’t mean my rugby pals don’t join me to watch Scarlets vs Munster, or Glasgow v Leinster. In the same way I’d watch Saracens vs Exeter – I don’t have skin in the game but still like to watch a good game. And in the same way Edinburgh vs Treviso won’t get them interested I wouldn’t watch Worcester vs Sale, even if either of them were on TV!
      One thing that is the same in both leagues, is that there are probably only 6 or 7 sides in the running for the champions spot. OK Exeter and Connacht have surprised everyone but other than that it’s the same sides competing at the business end of the season. I don’t think that’ll ever change, especially when money becomes more and more important.

      Reply
      • FF on

        Truth is, take Saracens out if the equation and pro12 have easily held their own against Aviva opposition. Much derided Edinburgh beat Harlequins twice last year and that was at our lowest ebb. English advantage is financial more than anything else.

      • JP on

        Exeter haven’t surprised anyone. Connacht exploited a World Cup year. Exeter are legitimately a top side and have been for a few seasons

      • JP on

        Harlequins are crap and 9/10 is still expect them to beat Edinburgh. That was a freak 75 point game. Leinster would demolish quins

      • FF on

        You might expect Harlequins to win 9/10 but they actually lost 2/2. Seems to indicate your expectations have a slight reality gap. Also, Exeter’s results in Europe against pro12 opposition have not exactly been all-conquering.

  15. Frazer on

    My worry is the structure of the tournament. The Super Rugby model is confusing, and that has contributed to it’s loss of support. With there being 14 teams in the league there’s no way teams can be expected to play 26 games in addition to European fixtures.

    So, what then would be a structure that would work? 2 leagues of 7? Bur then how are the leagues determined? Top 7 from last year in one, the rest plus the SA sides in the other? Would there be inter-divisional games? How many? Promotion or relegation?

    It’s going to be complicated no matter which way they choose, I just hope they don’t make the teams play 26 games as a lot of sides don’t have the depth of squad to cope with that.

    Reply
    • Crazyjoe on

      It’ll have to include conferences. What do we get then? An Irish and scottish, Italian? Welsh and SA. It’s a mess. Do they play home and away? The saffa’s will surely have to tour so all their away games then a log run of home? Maybe they’ll look at an SPL style split at Xmas? Let’s not forget, this competition started in 7 or so weeks. The saffas are still,playing super rugby! When is their break? Do they qualify for Europe? Are the players going to be looked upon more or less favourably than home based boks? They are in SA but playing an NH season. Any decent player will jump ship and they will be left as b teams or under 21 sides. Also there is a reason South African rugby stops October to Feb. Are they going to play in that heat?

      Reply
      • Jamie on

        You may have touched on the most important point here with respect to the different playing seasons. No Boks would be able to play in these sides due to the conflicts of The Rugby Championship and our off season. So, it is likely any talent will be moved to super rugby teams as soon as they break through.

        In essence, it’s impossible for either team to become better. How is this fixed?

        This is a major issue.

  16. R Piece on

    I am looking forward to it, and can see it being the beginning of the end for Super Rugby, with all the SA teams signing up to join us, and some trans-Tasman comp starting up instead.

    I’m just intrigued as to the proposed format, particularly in relation to the European Cup – should find out more after kings and cheetahs finish their season on Saturday.

    Something I’d be interested in attending would be a “super weekend” like they have in super league. All fans converge on a random city/ stadium and watch an extra round of derby-type fixtures. It could be a way of getting a foothold in other markets if held abroad (Germany?).

    Reply
    • Neil on

      Not a bad idea , similar to how scotland played italy after SA beat samao at ellis park ? think was 2013 and it has a bit more of a party atmosphere similar to the sevens

      Reply
      • Crazyjoe on

        Aviva opens with the double header but that has a single national stadium. I like derbies at the actual grounds, especially when one team is home and the other away. But you could have a season opener double header and a season closing double header for the regular season and alternate every other year between the four nations, ignoring Italy and South Africa! Or the champion nation always hosts one and the other goes round each nation year on year.

  17. Alanyst on

    pure dead daft in my view.

    What is good about the pro12? Familiarity..due to 6N and lions and so on..we fans know a fair bit about the opposition.

    Anyone heard of Lionel Cronje? Fred Zeilinga? Both starting at 10 tomorrow

    That was/is the big thing wrong with Super Rugby expansion….without enough boks/wallabies/all blacks the away team are just names.

    Reply
  18. James on

    I think part of the problem with super rugby is the conferences within conferences structure. Best placed Oz team could be way down their side of the conference but get to the playoffs because their Oz… I think that adds to the confusion and it may cost us but we’d need, if going to conferences, to stick to a straight top of one plays second of other playoff. Could be expanded to have quarter finals if more games were wanted but you’d end up with more than 50% of each conference getting through.

    Actually thinking about it, if you effectively have two conferences of 7 that’s almost not enough games if teams play their conference home and away then the playoffs. Could it follow the U20’s WC model and have top 4, next 4 and bottom 6 playing off? But with potential travel to sort that becomes a logistical nightmare to sort.

    Perhaps the SA move is short term pain to a more effective Pro XX as discussed above with two conferences of 10 then playoffs. But that doesn’t fix the issue of how the conferences are selected.

    But we definitely need to be able to compete with the money in England and France so doing nothing doesn’t seem to be an option.

    Reply
    • Crazyjoe on

      The issue with Super rugby is that the best 4 sides are in the same conference and attendances, particularly in oz are poor. If looking objectively the book sides probably shouldn’t be the ones getting culled but you can’t boot the sunwolves and jaguares which I agree with.

      Reply
      • James on

        I realise that but that highlights the issue with how you select the conferences: split them along national lines and end up in the same situation at super rugby, perhaps forcing some lesser teams into the playoffs on nationality rather than merit, but keep all the derbies as discussed in posts above; or find some other criteria so that the conferences are more evenly split but risk losing the derbies?

        Perhaps if teams were mixed into the two conferences each country could instigate a cup competition to run alongside/out with the league to get a) the derbies and b) the required number of games.

        I’m not sure I have the answer.

      • Crazyjoe on

        I can’t believe I’m suggesting this but based upon what youve said, maybe an SPL style split half way through would work? Or at least be a viable option.

  19. pragmatic optomist on

    The Super rugby competition is becoming so dominated by NZ teams, maybe the Australians would like to escape and join us as well? A world league.
    Teams from England and France wouldn’t be allowed to join unless they ‘asked really nicely’! (beg I mean)
    I’m now fairly certain that some of these comments are blatant piss-takes. Crazy Jo is in fact, FF’s alter ego. An introverted and backward sociopath, learning to read and write while serving out his sentence in Pentonville prison.

    Reply
  20. pragmatic optomist on

    Incredible! I’ve just been accused of character assassination by a troll!
    That’s almost amusing ‘sensible Jo’.

    Reply

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